Over the last few weeks I’ve been pretty keen to make the most of the last bit of winter and have taken advantage of some great conditions and beautiful weather in the Lake District.
I kicked it off on Good Friday with a quick ski trip. A friend had been out a couple of days previously and reported fantastic conditions on the west side of Helvellyn/Raise, so I headed there. Arriving a little later than planned I struggled to park, so made a last minute decision to do a full traverse of the Helvellyn range from Dunmail Raise instead.
Parking up at Dunmail Raise there were quite a few skiers heading out. Most were heading up Seat Sandal but I chose to skin up Raise Beck instead, a good choice as there wasn’t enough snow to turn this into a terrain trap and skinning conditions were good, but the run down from Seat Sandal looked horrendous! From the pass the route up Dollywaggon was fairly icy and I put the skis back on the pack and bootpacked for a while – I wished I’d taken ski crampons with me. Once it flattened out it was back to skinning and I continued to the top of Helvellyn whilst working on my sun tan.
Lunch on the summit turned into a catch up session when some old friends appeared, small world! Then it was off towards Raise on some pretty interesting windblown snow, ice and sastrugi – somewhat difficult conditions. I watched a couple in the distance get far too close to the cornice over Brown Cove – a definite heart-in-mouth moment and a stark reminder of how easy it is to mess up in winter, even in the Lakes. A quick boot pack down the shoulder of Lower Man with some cool dude snowboarders who were out to shred some knarly lines (!). I’d originally intended to go up Raise as well, but on the recommendation of another skier I decided to drop straight down Brund Ghyll towards Thirlmere.
Fantastic skiing (for the Lakes)! Once off the upper 100m of windblown crust there was a perfect thin layer of powder pretty much all the way to the road. Dodging in and out of the creek I got some decent turns in and even skinned back up for a second run of the best bit. A fantastic day and so nice to be able to ski in the Lakes, the strong easterly wind we’d had through the snow fall had really filled in west facing gullies – I even skied across a fence!
The following weekend we had an early start and headed up to Scafell Crag in search of some ice. After the plod up to the crag our intended route, Steep Ghyll, looked to be in condition so we went for it. However the crux pitch turned out to be a little more unconsolidated than was ideal and after a valiant fight through the chimney from my partner he got turned back by the slabs above, covered in a thin layer of powder. The decision was made to retreat and we started downclimbing and abseiling, whilst being thoroughly checked out by the mountain rescue chopper – who fortunately realised that if they had had a call, it was not for us.
Back down at the base we decided to go for a wander up Lord’s Rake instead and possibly climb something else. Deep Ghyll Integrale looked like a good bet so we climbed that as a consolation prize. It was definitely worthy of its 3 stars – although the climbing for the majority of it is easy, you end up in a fantastic position high above Deep Ghyll itself, traversing a tiny ledge.
Topping out into the sun turned it into t-shirt weather, amazing! We found the remains of a recently released flare on top, presumably what the heli had been there for earlier – I don’t know what had happened but hope all parties were ok. A lovely wander over the top of Scafell dropped us down into Wasdale through some late-afternoon slush, such a beautiful day.
The following day was spent doing some more relaxed cragging in Borrowdale – a huge recommendation for the classic HVS’s on Quayfoot Buttress if anyone’s up that way.